Since 2014, the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI) has supported the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP), an initiative that provides opportunities for undergraduates to acquire experience in autism research in the labs of SFARI Investigators at leading universities in the United States during the summer months.
To date, the program has engaged more than 100 students in over 60 projects, committing more than $1 million. SFARI works closely with partnering institutions to match students with SFARI Investigators who can provide research opportunities and mentorship that align with each student’s interests while helping them develop valuable professional skills. In particular, SURP encourages participation of students from underrepresented communities, joining other SFARI initiatives that work to increase diversity and inclusion in the next generation of autism research scientists.
“Strong mentorship is an invaluable asset for students with an interest in research,” says John Spiro, SFARI deputy scientific director. “We are pleased to continue supporting the program and foster student engagement and training in autism science through the guidance of leading figures in the field.”
SURP students are introduced to a broad range of experimental techniques and methodologies in autism research and have opportunities to acquire valuable academic and research skills such as giving presentations, preparing conference posters and participating in scientific publications. For some students, the knowledge and experience gained from this program and the connections made with their mentors have helped lay the groundwork for further research opportunities after graduation.
“Participating in SURP is an enriching experience for everyone in the lab, myself included,” says Michael Hart, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania, SFARI Bridge to Independence Fellow and SURP mentor. “Each summer amazing SURP students bring a fresh excitement, creativity, and perspective to the lab that stimulates our own research. Hosting SURP students provides us as much benefit as the role we hopefully play in advancing their scientific experience and future careers.”
At this time, SFARI provides funding to undergraduate summer programs at select institutions with a high concentration of SFARI-supported Investigators. Programs that SFARI intends to fund this summer are listed below:
California Institute of Technology (Mentor: David Anderson, Ph.D.)
Harvard Medical School (Mentors: Maria Lehtinen, Ph.D. and Michael Greenberg, Ph.D.)
New York University School of Medicine (Mentor: Moses Chao, Ph.D.)
Oregon Health & Science University (Mentors: Brian O’Roak, Ph.D. and Arpiar Saunders, Ph.D.)
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Mentor: Ben Philpot, Ph.D.)
University of Pennsylvania (Mentors: Michael Hart, Ph.D. and Hongjun Song, Ph.D.)
Yale University (Mentor: Jessica Cardin, Ph.D.)